Greg Johnson, Editor LAS VEGAS — There’s no doubt produce is a bigger factor at the National Grocers Association’s annual expo, which was Feb. 10-13.
This was the second year that NGA partnered with the Produce Marketing Association, with PMA promoting the event to members, contributing to the educational program and subcontracting a produce pavilion, which 28 companies took advantage of, up from 20 last year.
It will likely grow.
Most exhibitors said they had good meetings with smaller grocery executives and some wholesalers.
Most exhibitors considered it a success.
It was also refreshing to see so many of those coveted “red badges” of retailers, and not have them mobbed by supplier attendees, like we see at PMA’s Fresh Summit, for example.
But there was also a big missed opportunity.
For one, many independent grocers use wholesalers, like Associated Wholesale Grocers, Nash Finch, and their competitors. A produce company exhibitor can’t just make a deal with a buyer. The exhibitor must impress upon the retailer that it should deal with its wholesaler to use supply from that produce company.
A mild complaint was that there were few produce vice presidents to talk to.
Exhibitors are optimistic the independent executives will bring their produce experts to future shows. There’s certainly a great opportunity for them to talk with those exhibiting produce companies.
In a way, the NGA expo feels more like a smaller regional show than a Fresh Summit or United Fresh Marketplace, even though it’s in Las Vegas.
It’s also something that can’t get too big or it will lose that intimate feel, as PMA president Bryan Silbermann told me on the expo floor.
Expect the produce pavilion to grow but not too much or too fast.
As the local trend continues to grow among consumers, it’s nice to see so many produce and grocery leaders stress that local is limited.
As consumers have to realize, a local produce diet is very small when there’s snow on the ground. It also eliminates many tropicals, including the banana, year-round.
The more the produce industry stresses “locale” over “local,” as Silbermann mentioned in his Feb. 11 general session, the more consumers will gain knowledge about the limitations of a local diet and they will realize how many fresh produce items they’ll miss out on.
In a Feb. 11 workshop on local food, panelist Mike Needler, president of Fresh Encounter Inc., which runs Community Markets in and around Ohio, focusing on local food, said independent stores can be more flexible and nimble with local sourcing than larger competitors.